Ask a Therapist: Facing Our Addictions with Richard Kneip

WebMD Live Events Transcript

The definition of an addiction is the act of devoting or giving oneself habitually or compulsively or to become physiologically dependent on a habit- forming substance or action. This can include gambling, alcohol, drugs, sex, food, etc. When a habit interferes with your daily life, it is then considered an addiction. Join Richard Kneip, PhD, as he talks about how to recognize addictions and what can be done to overcome them.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome everyone! Today's guest is Richard Kneip, PhD. He will be answering your questions about addictions.

mulconrey: I'm 18 and I think I'm an alcoholic. How can I know?

Richard Kneip, PhD: Strictly speaking, there is no widely accepted definition of what constitutes an "alcoholic." However, when deciding whether alcohol or drug use is problematic for someone, we evaluate whether the drug or alcohol use is creating problems in the major functional areas of the individual's life, such as school, work, and relationships. I am concerned just knowing that you are wondering if you might be an alcoholic, suggesting to me that you are thinking that your use of alcohol may be obsessive. We do know through research that the younger someone is when they start to use alcohol, the more likely it is that their substance use will escalate into a major problem in later years. I would strongly encourage you to speak with a school counselor, your doctor, or any other adult trained in the evaluation of substance abuse problems. Lots of help is available, and you should take full advantage of it. You can get more information about the signs and symptoms of alcohol and other drug dependencies at

johncandylookalike: If I have addictions to the Internet, overeating, and masturbation, will an overeaters anonymous group help me with all of them? I mean each topic is different, but the concepts for overcoming them are similar right?

Richard Kneip, PhD: You are absolutely right that the concepts and methods used to promote recovery from addictions are similar across different problems. The reason for this is that the methodologies have been adapted from the 12-step program developed by alcoholics anonymous. The specific content related to particular addictions may be important for you as it relates to your situation, but making progress in any one of the areas you mentioned by participating in the 12-step program may help you in the other areas.

satoshiokamoto_98: Do you recommend any therapy for sex addiction?

Richard Kneip, PhD: Recently, there have been a number of books written, and specific treatment programs are being introduced for so-called " sexual addiction." These programs, as mentioned in the previous question, are based largely on the 12-step program developed by alcoholics anonymous. Individual counseling or psychotherapy may also be helpful for you to understand the roots or causes of your behavior, as well as to help you explore alternative behaviors. As with any addiction recovery program, group therapy has also been shown to be highly effective.

the_reverend_al_sharpton: Is there such a thing as food addiction?

Richard Kneip, PhD: Traditionally, the word addiction was used to describe the body's physical dependence upon a chemical substance, such as alcohol or heroine. More recently, the word has been generalized to many behaviors that are prone to behavioral excess. When defined this broadly, addiction can be applied to virtually any behavior in which an individual might engage for their own gratification or pleasure. Obviously, eating is something that many people do to excess if you look at the World Health Organization statistics on the rate of obesity in the US and other affluent countries.

Jim_nc_99: Is the same person likely to be addicted to several things? In other words, is there such a thing as an addictive personality?

Richard Kneip, PhD: That is a very good question. Behavioral therapists have debated and conducted substantial research into the so-called "addictive personality," but the results to date have been equivocal at best. Certainly, it is common in clinical practice to see individuals that are using a wide variety of substances, such as alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, but this can easily be explained by the individual's socio-cultural peer group and lifestyle. Much less common would be individuals who show "addictive" behavior across disparate behavioral areas, such as sex and gambling. To further complicate matters, we must recognize that in some cases, addictive behaviors might represent an individual's attempt to overcome or deal with a mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety. You can find more information on a wide variety of "addictive" behavioral disorders at

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